Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida nursing home negligence case dealing with the validity of an arbitration agreement that was signed by the plaintiff on behalf of her deceased husband. The case required the court to determine whether the court or the arbitration panel named in the agreement should determine whether certain clauses contained in the arbitration agreement were severable from the rest of the contract. Ultimately, the court concluded that the severability of the clauses was properly before the court because the arbitration agreement contained no “delegation” clause.
Arbitration Agreements Generally
When someone is injured due to the alleged negligence of another person or business, the injured person has a right to file a personal injury case against the party they believe to be responsible for their injuries. The same is true for the loss of a loved one. However, the right to file a claim in a court of law can be waived through an agreement to submit the claim to arbitration.
Arbitration is an informal, although still legally binding, way of resolving disputes between parties. Normally, arbitration is requested by a company prior to providing services. Commonly, arbitration agreements arise in the context of nursing home pre-admission contracts, whereby the resident agrees to submit any claim for damages to arbitration, rather than filing a personal injury case in a court of law.
That being said, the right of access to the courts is an important one, and courts want to make sure that parties know what they are giving up when they sign an arbitration agreement. Thus, Florida law requires that an arbitration agreement clearly describe the rights that are being waived. Additionally, courts will not enforce arbitration contracts that violate sound public policy.
The Facts of the Case
The case was fairly straightforward. The plaintiff’s husband died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to the man’s admission into the home, the plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement on behalf of her husband. However, after her husband died, the plaintiff filed a claim in the court system, claiming that several of the clauses contained in the agreement were severable and invalid.
The nursing home failed to respond to the substance of the plaintiff’s argument and claimed that the arbitration panel should make the determination of whether the clauses were severable. However, the court disagreed, noting that there was no delegation clause providing the arbitrator with the authority to make such a decision.
The court then went on to hold that since the nursing home failed to respond to the substance of the plaintiff’s claims, the plaintiff was entitled to judgment in her favor.
Is Your Loved One at Risk?
If you have a loved one in a Florida nursing home, and you believe that they may be at risk of abuse or neglect, you should consult with the dedicated South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Cecere Santana. We represent nursing home residents and their families against abusive and neglectful nursing home employees and management. We have experience dealing with arbitration contracts and are familiar with what the nursing home must establish in order to enforce these contracts. To learn more, call 800-743-5529 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
See Additional Blog Posts:
Pedestrian Bridge at Florida International University Collapses, Resulting in Six Fatalities, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, March 27, 2018.
Who Pays in Uber and Lyft Accidents?, Cecere Santana Injury Attorneys Blog, published March 15, 2018.